Monday Morning Open Thread: Expect the Unexpected

Because it’s a holiday for most of us, here’s something genuinely nice and uplifting to start the day. From the Washington Post‘s book section, “He quit the NFL for a career in math”:

John Urschel has heard it a lot: “You’re that football player who’s really smart.” It’s an accurate description — Urschel, a former offensive lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, is a doctoral candidate in mathematics at MIT — but that description makes him wince.

Instead, he offers this: “I’m looking forward to being considered that mathematician who used play football.”

In July of 2017, Urschel retired from the NFL after three seasons. He hasn’t played football since. Not even a casual game in the park? Nope. “This isn’t something my friends and I do for fun,” he says.

Besides, Urschel has been busy with something else — his memoir, “Mind and Matter.” Written with his wife, journalist Louisa Thomas, the book chronicles his life in both sports and academics and explains how and why, in the end, he chose math over football. Yes, it had something to do with concussions, but that’s not all of it…

When asked what he likes to do for fun, his immediate answer is, “math!” He carries a notepad with him just in case he’s struck by an idea. He wanted his first book to be a pure math book, and at signings he’s been known to inscribe the memoir he ended up writing with “fun integrals” and “important constants” that he’s excited to explain to anyone who wants to geek out with him.

Urschel grew up in Buffalo. His parents, who separated when Urschel was 3, encouraged his two-track learning from an early age. His mother, a nurse-turned-lawyer, urged him to pursue his interests in math with games and puzzles, and later advanced course work. “If I am a true outlier,” he writes in his book, “it is because of her — an African-American single mother who loved math but was discouraged from it, who wanted me never to feel that any door was closed to me.” His father, a thoracic surgeon and former linebacker at the University of Alberta, pushed him academically, too. But he was also concerned about his son’s conditioning, and his time with young Urschel involved visits to the gym as well as to the library…








Terrifying (Excellent) Long Read: “The Night the Lights Went Out”

Via Dave Fahrenheit’s twitter feed, for Deadspin:

All I remember is waking up in a fog with a bunch of tubes sticking out of me and thinking it was the morning after the awards. I also remember thinking that I was in the hospital because I had somehow gotten into a fistfight and lost. Someone—I don’t remember who—informed me that this was not the case. Then they gave me a topline summary of my injury, along with the day’s date. I found myself first in disbelief, and then morbidly amused. I may have even chortled.

But now that I know more details about what happened, I am less amused and more extremely freaked out. I wasn’t awake for all the scary parts of my injury, but everyone I loved was. When I finally came to, I could see the fear and terror still in their eyes, even after the worst had passed. I could see it in the eyes of my poor mom and dad, who sat vigil at my bedside every day after surgery, praying for me to wake up. I could see it in the faces of my brother and sister, who did likewise. I could see it in the faces of my friends and of my co-workers, who quite literally saved my life and were then informed that I would likely be hospitalized for months before I could walk out into the light of day. Not a single month, as it turned out to be. Months.

… I find myself in a strange situation where people I love were traumatized and devastated by what happened to me, but I—the dude who actually suffered the injury—fell into a two-week time warp before waking up strapped to a gurney: emaciated, woozy, confused, and irritable. I’m left to reverse engineer my own trauma by talking to my loved ones, poring over dry-ass medical charts, and checking notes that my wife kept throughout the whole ordeal, notes that I can’t bear to read. For as long as I live on, I owe it to my family and friends and colleagues to fully appreciate the fact that I somehow didn’t die, and that they saved me. I feel shitty that they had to go through that. I feel bad that I let my brain explode. When I recounted my injury to a nurse practitioner at the MinuteClinic the other week, her jaw dropped. “You’re so lucky you’re alive, you have no idea.”…

I cheated death, and now the Reaper has a chit for my head that he can cash in any time he likes. I now know firsthand that he doesn’t always telegraph his arrival. I was blindsided. When I was young, I thought nothing could kill me. I know I’m old now because I believe that everything can kill me, including just going to a work shindig. I have the receipts to prove it.

There may come a day when I can recover some of the memories I lost from this whole episode, but I’d prefer that day never come. I try not to think about what happened to me, but I do every day…








Now This Is An All-Comers Army

Without doubt, these fine soldiers win Olympic gold in the straight-face event:

 

In these troubled times, there’s no limit to the amount of absurd we need as a daily counterpoint.

This thread: it is open.








Meanwhile In Canada…

Apparently since all of the Canadian teams have been eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs, there’s not a whole lot going on in the Great White North…

From The Ottawa Citizen:

An apparently dog-tired pooch diverted traffic in Oxford Mills on the weekend until police picked him up to continue his snooze in the back of an OPP cruiser.

Grenville County officers got the report at 3:30 p.m. Saturday of a large dog lying in the middle of Water Street.

“The dog appeared content and refused to move, thus causing vehicles to drive around him,” officers noted.

“Fortunately, police were able to persuade the uninjured dog to continue his apparent much-needed rest in the back of the cruiser.”

Officers returned the pup to his home in the village about 50 km southwest of Ottawa where he’d escaped from a fenced backyard.

“The dog was happily reunited with his owners but sadly missed by the officers,” police said.

The dog, having successfully slept on the yellow line, is now a member in good standing of the local outlaw motorcycle club!//

Open thread, if you can stay awake.








Thursday Morning Open Thread: #SheThePeople

Sounds like this was quite the EVENT!

Patrick Svitek, for the Texas Tribune:

Appearing at Texas Southern University, a historically black college, eight candidates made their pitches at a forum hosted by She the People, a national network of women of color. The three-hour event was one of the biggest gatherings of the Democratic primary candidates yet, let alone in Texas.

Taking questions from moderators and the audience, the candidates covered a range of issues that have already animated the primary — health care, criminal justice and voting rights — while sharpening their cases for how those issues impact women of color. The massive 2020 field is historically diverse, and most participants faced the same question at the end of their time onstage: Why should women of color choose you?…

For some candidates — particularly those who are neither women nor people of color — the forum at times appeared to be a humbling experience. The other hopeful from Texas, Beto O’Rourke, paused before answering why women of color should back him, acknowledging that their support is “not something that I’m owed, not something that I expect” but “something that I fully hope to earn by the work that I do on the campaign trail.” He cited a number of prominent black women in politics that he has learned from — including Houston U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a fellow Democrat who has a bill to study reparations that O’Rourke and several other candidates support…

Regardless, the day was a boon for Texas Democrats who increasingly view the state as a battleground. As he left the forum, state party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said the event — with its number of candidates and early timing in the primary — was unlike anything he has seen in his 35 years in Texas Democratic politics.

“One of the things that came out of this event today is a recognition — [one] that people who have been involved in politics have known about for a long time — that women of color deliver [a] large number of votes for the Democratic candidates in every election cycle,” Hinojosa said. “That number’s increasing significantly over the years. In the last election cycle, they delivered big time for Democratic candidates. They’re more energized, engaged and angry today than they’ve ever been before.”

Not surprisingly, one candidate started with an extra edge…


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